Douglas Theuner, the Episcopal Church’s eighth Bishop of New Hampshire and the mentor and direct predecessor to the church’s first openly gay bishop, died Friday in Concord. He was 74.
He had been in failing health for some time and had recently entered hospice care, church officials said in confirming his death.
Theuner led the state’s diocese from 1986 until 2003, at which point, amid a wave of global controversy, the rank passed to Bishop Gene Robinson. Robinson, who publicly disclosed his sexual orientation in 1986, had previously served as the state’s Canon to the Ordinary, a sort of chief of staff to the bishop.
“Doug Theuner is the reason I have a life in ministry,” Robinson said. “He was one of the boldest defenders of justice I’ve ever known.”
In a related development, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
Ten years ago this month, Gene Robinson was ordained in New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church — and in his own words, “all hell broke loose” in the denomination and among its global partners in the Anglican Communion.
The now-retired Bishop Robinson, speaking to a small but supportive audience at East Liberty Presbyterian Church Saturday, said he’s astounded at the changes in the political and religious climate in the past decade.
Gay marriage has become legal in about 15 states — when Bishop Robinson was ordained a bishop, there was no place in the country where he could legally marry his longtime partner, which he was eventually able to do in New Hampshire. And while homosexuality continues to be debated and opposed in many religious denominations, Bishop Robinson noted that the ordination of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s first openly gay bishop in September in California made a blip in the news.
“I can’t believe the progress we have made,” Bishop Robinson said. “If you are anywhere around my age, you could not have dreamt in your growing up that you would see what you have lived to see.”